Tim Kurth is Chief Executive Officer of Aurubis Bulgaria and President of the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce. He started his career in Unilever and continued in Numico. In 2006 he joined Norddeutsche Affinerie (now Aurubis AG) where he held different senior management positions, including Group Innovation Manager and Vice President Corporate Logistics, before taking his present position in Bulgaria in 2014.
Aurubis Bulgaria is part of Aurubis AG, a leading international multi-metal producer based in Hamburg, Germany. In Bulgaria Aurubis operates the copper plant near Zlatitsa and Pirdop in the region of Srednogorie. The company is the second largest business entity in Bulgaria in terms of annual revenues and has a structural role for country’s economy.
How did Aurubis Bulgaria handle the coronavirus crisis in terms of supply chains?
For Aurubis Bulgaria, our supply chains are of different length and we are sourcing quite a lot of raw materials locally from Bulgaria and from the region. The same applies for our customers – we’ve got big customers in Bulgaria and in the region. Internally, we consistently follow very strict anti-epidemic measures. To keep our people together and our relations with the communities relatively unaffected, we decided not to cancel the public projects we had planned. We migrated online and hold events in remotely.
What are your expectations about the performance of Aurubis Bulgaria for the full financial year?
Compared to last year we expect, looking at the first three quarters, that the financial result will be close to the forecast.
Two years ago, you announced a 132 million euro investment in the Pirdop plant. How far have you progressed with the investment and what remains to be done?
This programme continues without any interruptions. We are going to execute it in its full amount. The programme includes investment in R&D and the plant’s infrastructure upgrade we are going to do all of these. There is no reason to expect any shortage because of suppliers not being able to deliver or because of shortage of human resources. So far, we do not plan to change our four-year ongoing investment program.
In line with your strategy for the development of the Pirdop plant you recently announced an investment in a solar plant that is going to be built by CEZ Esco. Are you planning any further investments to help the Pirdop plant stick to the European Green Deal roadmap?
We are quite proud that we have been able to fix that deal, which will help meet the electricity demands of the Pirdop plant. The gasification of the region through a pipe from Panagyurishte is also on its way. After long discussions, we now hope that in a reasonable timeframe the gas will arrive in the Srednogorie and we are preparing to connect our internal network.
We are also proud that the Aurubis Group decided that the plant in Pirdop is the first one within the group to go for the Copper Mark – a new sector certification related to the United Nations sustainable development code which covers requirements for label safety, environment, human rights, relations with communities.
Do you see any synergies and potential for optimisation at the Pirdop plant following your recent acquisition of the Metallo group and software developer Azeti?
Metallo are active in recycling and the non-copper metals business and our strategy says that we would like to grow also in those directions. This deal is especially important for us these days when the scrap markets are quite favorable and, especially, when we discuss closing the loop of the circular economy and transforming used materials back into useful and usable materials. Here in Bulgaria we are not so dependent on the scrap market, we take as raw materials 50,000-60,000 tonnes of copper for recycling but we do believe that with a know-how player in our group we can enter new markets.
Regarding Azeti, because of our specific business model and requirements towards IT solutions, we would be in better hands with a flexible software provider. Azeti is quite a nice fit for the Aurubis Group with their tailor-made IT solutions for us. We are anyhow working in that direction already – with digitalisation and automated processes not only in production and operation but also in the administration.
Will this result in extension of the capacity of the Pirdop plant?
Not automatically. We have undergone quite big investment projects regarding operations and production during the last years and we are now in a phase where we would like to stabilise them and see that we are able to have this high output in the long term. We do hope also that IT tools and automation can help cope with the massive amount of data. We are sure that Azeti and their expertise will help us there a lot.